Monday, January 23, 2017

Why did New Hope Borough Council President Scandone Resign, Then Change His Mind?

Why did President Bill Scandone resign from New Hope Borough Council Jan. 6, only to reverse course and “rescind” his resignation on Jan. 18?

Borough Council at a Jan. 17 meeting had given him the latitude to withdraw his resignation by voting in a split decision not to “accept” it. Scandone was absent from that regularly scheduled meeting, but explained in a statement read aloud on his behalf that he was quitting the group due to “familial obligations.”

When he reversed his resignation the next day on Jan. 18, he reportedly said he was “thrilled” to remain president. So why did he offer to resign in the first place, and why is he unwilling to explain the general nature of the “familial obligation” that was significant enough for him to resign, then wasn’t?

Scandone isn’t saying. He hasn’t responded to repeated requests for information about his on-again, off-again resignation.

Documents obtained by the Free Press show that Scandone at first referred to “personal matters” in a Jan. 6 letter to New Hope Borough Manager Cathryn Thomas informing her of his “resignation from the New Hope Borough Council effective immediately.” Thomas also did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Scandone went on to explain in his letter, “These matters will take greater priority in 2017. I intend to focus on familial responsibilities.”

Documents also reveal that one day earlier, on Jan. 5, Scandone canceled a meeting with Larry Panzica, owner of Moo Hope Ice Cream at 22 S. Main St., and new owner of the former Cryer’s Hardware building at 20 S. Main St. Also apparently invited to attend were Thomas, Zoning Officer Jim Ennis, and Council Member Ken Maisel (who serves on New Hope’s Universal Construction Code Committee, or “UCC”).

Scandone nixed the meeting “as a first step in addressing your concerns,” referring to a stern note sent a day earlier by Council and UCC Member Claire Shaw describing a “suspected agenda” that included discussion of “Larry Panzica’s experience/complaints with the UCC process.”
“I would like to know what you view our purpose as a committee to be,” asked Shaw in her Jan. 4 letter to Scandone. “If it is to trouble shoot and resolve UCC issues, then why have you circumvented the committee’s jurisdiction?”

The letter goes on to assert, “You have kept information from this council for the last 12 months to promote your own agenda and you have continually failed to include members of council on important issues, choosing non-council, non-residents as your confidants.”

Additional documents and interviews with multiple sources over several months reveal a pattern by Scandone of intervening directly in controversial issues and projects under the jurisdiction of council and its sub-committees, often in private meetings with Council Member and former Revitalization Committee Chair Joseph Franlin at his side. Franlin‘s influence has risen along with that of the Revitalization Committee, which last year promoted the doubling of parking meter rates in downtown New Hope, along with the proposed “Cannon Square” project.

Did Shaw’s Jan. 4 criticism of Scandone’s actions lead him to resign from borough council on Jan. 6? Scandone won’t comment. But new information continues to emerge, and it’s painting a portrait of dysfunction at the highest level of New Hope’s municipal leadership.

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